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August 29, 2018   |   11 min read

The Importance of Social Listening | Does Your Content Make a Splash?

The last thing brands want is for their audience to perceive them as annoying or being too gimmicky. Within social media channels, as content is mixed in alongside real-time updates from real-life, human connections, this couldn’t be more true. This balance is one that most brands struggle to achieve, but we have some pointers on doing just that.

As social platforms continue to place more value on posts from family and friends, this leaves brands continuously wondering what they can do to increase their organic reach. Now, the content you share must make a splash within the first couple of hours of being posted if you want it to be seen in the feed. How can you make sure the content you’re sharing on social media is relevant enough for your audience to want to interact with it? The answer to this question is social listening.



What exactly is social listening?

According to Sprout Social, the definition of social listening is as follows:

Social listening is the process of tracking conversations around specific topics, keywords, phrases, brands or industries, and leveraging your insights to discover opportunities or create content for those audiences.

Basically, social listening allows you to gain insight into what your audience is talking about online when they aren’t talking on your page or profile. Not only does this allow you to better plan your social content accordingly, it also allows you to enhance your community management, and can even help inform your CX & strategy. With social listening, you can uncover conversations or references about your brand that don’t specifically tag or mention you.

Think of it this way. We all have that one friend, or at least know someone, who would be described as self-absorbed. They’re great at communicating when the conversation revolves around them, but when the tables turn, they don’t have any input. There’s no point in continuing this relationship if it’s only one-sided. This mindset is what you want to avoid as a brand on social media -- you need to share content that speaks to more than just the goods and services you have to offer. Otherwise, your feed becomes repetitive and your audience will very quickly lose interest.

If more brands took the time to listen to their audience, they would be able to learn more about their interests and behaviors, and in turn, provide more relevant social content and improve customer service. One major bonus: They’d also gain some competitive insight into how similar brands are connecting with their audiences. Below we'll dive into the major benefits of social listening.



Gain Audience Insight

To refrain from becoming the “self-absorbed” brand that only shares promotional updates, you first need to understand who your audience is on social media and what they’re interested in. This will allow you to shift gears and get in the mindset of your audience so you can better tailor your content to them.

While there is a myriad of social listening tools available, there are many already available to you natively. If you’ve never taken a look at your Audience Insights on Facebook, you’re doing yourself a disservice. In Audience Insights you can find out the basic demographics of your audience, the likely industries where people work, and even other pages and categories they’re affiliated with.

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Twitter and LinkedIn have similar features, too. In Twitter, under the analytics section, you can compare your audience to certain preset groups like, “Millennials,” or “College Grads.” When viewing your audience on LinkedIn, they even suggest other companies to track and compare your audience to.

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Share Relevant Content

Your audience on social media is made of people who have many interests, and if you can share content that relates to those interests, you will have no problem getting them to interact with you.

Let’s say you’re a brand that specializes in athletic footwear. Of course, you will want to post content about the many different types of shoes you have, when they’re on sale, and how good people will look in them as they make their way to the gym. However, this is the exact type of content being devalued in users' feeds. Not every post you share has to be promotional.

As an athletic footwear brand there are many topics you could explore to see what else your audience is interested in and what they’re talking about. You could search through broad topics like “sports,” and “professional athletes” or get a little more granular and dedicate your search to one sport like “running.” Say you find there’s a lot of conversation happening around a sports event. It would be in your best interest to share an update regarding the event or make a post congratulating the winner.

Searching through these topics also presents a great opportunity for your brand to capitalize on surprise and delight moments. You may find that your audience is hungry for your brand, or any brand, to support them with a problem they’re having. A tweet that says, “My running shoes never stay laced!” would only be found by conducting social listening. The first brand to send that person a message with helpful information will have a loyal follower.

Furthermore, certain social listening tools will even give you insight into the emojis used the most by a certain audience so you can use them the same way when responding to them. We’ve already talked about how important emojis are in marketing, so these insights are another great advantage.

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Enhance Your Customer Service

Another major advantage of social listening is that you’re able to keep a pulse on conversations about your brand that occur outside of your mentions or notifications. Think about how many times you’ve shared a post with your friends and family about a great (or horrible) experience you’ve had while shopping, but didn’t tag the store. If you’re regularly looking for these conversations, you can learn more about the positive and negative experiences your audience is having and help accordingly. Social listening allows you to pick up on conversations you wouldn’t be aware of otherwise, which can also help to inform your CX strategy. When building personas or creating customer journey maps, seeing what actual people have to say about a product, service, or brand, can help illustrate the decisions and obstacles they face when they’re shopping.



Bonus: Uncover Competitive Insights

When you’re gaining information about your audience and making note of the topics that interest them that are relevant to your brand, it never hurts to take a peek at what works for brands similar to yours. At Mindstream, we regularly conduct competitive social audits for our clients, and rely heavily on social listening to help with the process. As an agency, social listening helps us better understand more about a client’s audience and industry, especially when it’s an industry that’s new to us. We’re able to see what types of content their competitors are sharing, how their audience perceives that content and what’s working vs. what’s not working. We’re also able to identify opportunities that competitors have yet to take advantage of, helping to make brands stand out in the eyes of consumers. These findings are just one important piece of what we use to build an overall social media strategy.



Social Listening Means Actually Listening

At the end of the day, social listening can help your brand go from “self-absorbed” to adding value and building connection. When you truly listen to your audience, you will uncover powerful insights you may not have known otherwise. You can apply these insights and learnings to create more relevant content for your audience and identify opportunities where you can jump in on conversations and be a helpful resource. If you can do this, your audience will know that they can come to you with any type of problem and become loyalists for your brand.

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